Madame Web is Focused on the Future — At Great Expense to the Present

Sony’s latest superhero film provides a prequel to a movie that we’ll probably never get to see.

Isabela Merced, Sydney Sweeney, and Celeste O’Connor in Madame Web
Sony Pictures

Like most superhero movies, Madame Web hinges around a reveal, or twist of some kind. But technically, the Sony superhero movie’s most exciting reveal hasn’t even truly happened yet. Sony’s latest entry in its live-action Spider-Verse works hard to bring some of Marvel’s most obscure Spider-People to the big screen, expanding their cinematic universe in the process. There is, however, a catch: Julia Carpenter (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced) are known as Spider-Women in Marvel comics, but Madame Web introduces them years before they inherit their spider-powers.

As its title suggests, the film is effectively an origin story for Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson), and a “wait and see!” prequel for the trio of teens in her care. Julia, Mattie, and Anya are normal girls for the majority of the film, forcing Cassie — who’s recently inherited precognitive abilities — to protect them from Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim). He’s the only character with any passing resemblance to the Spider-Man we know and love... which is kinda weird since the film takes place a good 20 years before Peter Parker becomes New York’s one and only webslinger.

Like Venom, Mobius, and (later this year) Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web tries to build a world that doesn’t necessarily need Peter Parker. But does it actually work this time? Kind of — but it also waits a bit too long to establish its heroines as actual superheroines. Sony’s put a lot of responsibility on a sequel that doesn’t yet exist. The future is clear for Madame Web and her allies, but whether we’ll actually get to see it is another story.

Here’s what happens at the end of Madame Web, and how it could set up the next chapter of Sony’s Spider-Verse. Spoilers ahead!

Madame Web’s ending, explained

The future is full of possibilities for Cassandra Webb.

Sony Pictures

Anyone who’s seen Madame Web’s infamous trailer knows that Cassie and Ezekiel are intricately connected. Ezekiel murdered Cassie’s mom Constance (Kerry Bishé) when she was in the Amazon researching spiders. Constance was also very pregnant at the time, and while she didn’t survive her baby’s birth, a group of mythical Spider-People known as Los Arañas promised they’d lend a hand if Cassie ever returned to the Amazon.

Thirty years and a near-fatal run-in with Ezekiel later, Cassie ends up doing just that. With the help of an Araña named Santiago (José María Yazpik), she learns how deep her precognition goes. She also unlocks the ability to astral project, a skill that comes in handy when she sets off to defeat Ezekiel once and for all.

Back in New York, Cassie uses her powers to save Julia, Mattie, and Anya from Ezekiel — but she essentially sacrifices herself to do it. Cassie is paralyzed by Ezekiel’s neurotoxins, blinded by a neon Pespi-Cola sign, and nearly drowned in the East River. Our Spider-Girls bring her back to the land of the living using their newly acquired CPR skills, but she doesn’t recover her sight or her ability to walk.

How Madame Web catches up to the comics

Madame Web’s first introduction on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #210.

Marvel Comics

It’s here that Cassie begins to resemble the Madame Web that fans might recognize: she transforms into a serene, all-knowing elder, eschewing her wry humor and awkward social graces. She’s also now blind and wheelchair-bound, which aligns with the Cassandra of the comics. In Spider-Man #210, Madame Web is introduced as an old woman that relies on a web-shaped life support system. She suffers from a neuromuscular disorder, myasthenia gravis, which sees the breakdown of voluntary muscles.

Though Madame Web nods to Cassandra’s origins in the comics, it essentially rewrites her backstory in favor of a superhero origin. When Santiago teaches her how to access the past, Cassie learns that she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis before she’d even been born. That’s why her mother was so adamant about finding that mythical spider in the Amazon. When Constance is bitten by said spider while giving birth, Cassie inherits the healing properties in its venom, but Ezekiel’s own neurotoxin makes that fate a possibility again.

By the time the credits roll, she still hasn’t totally become “Madame Web.” We only see a vision of the hero in the future, decked out in an all-red suit that pays homage to the Spider-Man comics. Though she can’t physically fight crime on the streets of New York, she’s honed her abilities enough to manifest a near-corporeal form. She’ll eventually serve as a mentor to Julia, Mattie, and Anya — who in a few years time will become Spider-Women in their own right.

The Spider-Person in the room

Madame Web introduces three Spider-Women before they actually get any spider powers, which works until it doesn’t.

Sony Pictures

Cassie and her apprentices are the ostensible heroes of Madame Web, but the film goes out of its way to connect these future heroes to the original wallcrawler: Peter Parker. Though he’s never mentioned by name, we do meet his uncle Ben (Adam Scott) and his mom Mary (Emma Roberts), who gives birth to a baby Peter while Cassie and co. are off fighting Ezekiel.

It will be years before Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider and forced to reconcile his newfound powers with the responsibility that comes with it. That said, there’s a chance that Cassie’s path will cross with a grown-up Peter’s eventually. Will she offer her services as a medium, and guide him through his biggest challenges as Spider-Man? Or more dramatically — could Madame Web be setting up new reboot of Spider-Man? That’s a real possibility, with this more involved backstory for Uncle Ben and with the saga of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker winding down over in the MCU. Sony can always be expected to reboot Spider-Man to retain the rights to the character, and that could be the final intent of the Sony Spider-Verse. But then again, multiple Spideys running around is what the multiverse is for.

With the addition of Madame Web, Sony’s Spider-Verse is that much closer to feeling realized. Whether Sony will commit to a sequel is another issue entirely, of course. But since the original Spider-Man is off-limits for them, a pivot to a new hero makes a lot of sense.

Madame Web is now playing in theaters.

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